Dear Powell Baptist Church Family,
A couple of weeks ago, I shared with many of you that a report was imminent on a serious trouble facing the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). The report I was alluding deals with allegations of sexual abuse and subsequent cover up within the leadership of our convention. Last June, the convention met in Nashville Tennessee. Thousands of messengers (delegates from individual churches), myself included, heard of the potential scandal and voted overwhelmingly to form a task force to uncover the evil that lurked within our ranks. In response to that, the Sexual Abuse Task Force (SATF) was formed. The SATF then hired Guidepost Solutions, a third-party investigative firm to inquire into the egregious sin.
Guideposts took on the enormous task of investigating twenty years of allegations and compiled a 288 page report summarized here: SATF report shows EC pattern of resistance to addressing abuse claims | Baptist Press. This report angers, saddens, and embarrasses me. Although the report was released this past Sunday, May 22, 2022, I decided to take a few days before writing because, quite honestly, I have been so sickened by it that it took several days to even process. Men whom I have grown to love, trust, and look up to find their names on the pages. Some were complicit in the cover ups and one in particular has been named as an abuser. Even now it seems that words are failing me. Years and years of not only sexual misconduct by those who lead churches and our conventions, but lies, manipulations, gaslighting, and corruption have invaded the SBC. Many survivors of the abuse were maligned and intimidated. Their stories swept under the rug. However, Scripture tells us in Luke 8:17 that, “Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.” It is imperative for us to understand that our sin is known to God even if it may be concealed by us.
Now it is upon us to respond to this report. Far too long the survivors have been silenced and justice has not been served. Next month, the SBC will meet again in Anaheim Calif., where Stephanie and I will attend as messengers representing our congregation. Surely much of our time there will be spent on discussing these matters and resolving to bring justice to survivors as well as make progress in ensuring that something like this will never take place again. Rest assured, if any sexual abuse allegations ever come to my desk, I will take immediate and proper action. Such wickedness has no place within the church or within any arena for that matter. Powell Baptist Church will respond swiftly to any such accusations and the appropriate authorities will be notified. Likewise, the 47000 churches that comprise the SBC have spoken and will hold our leadership accountable and place new standards of training, reporting, and response actions into our collective toolbox.
I am still grateful for the SBC and will still cooperate with the institution to further advance the Kingdom of God. What gives me hope is that it was indeed the rank-and-file pastors and laypeople who instigated the investigation to begin with. Our convention does not mandate anything to the local church. Contrarily, the local church, through its messengers direct the convention. In fact, the convention exists only for the collaborative efforts of the local church and, further, the local church is completely autonomous. While the SBC is receiving notable and global backlash for the damning report, it was the efforts of the messengers from the local church that brought this wickedness to light. We were grievously misrepresented by certain members of our leadership and we took action to demonstrate who we really are. Together as individual churches, as well as the Church as a whole, we will stand for the broken. Together we will stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is a time of lamenting. Not only does this damage our beloved convention, it damages the Kingdom. I am, however, confident in one thing … the Church will not be defeated. I have written this to you because I know that by this point it has been headline news and as your pastor, I felt it necessary to respond to it with you. Being a part of Powell means that you are a part of the SBC. I want you to be equipped with the truth. Your relationship with the SBC need not be represented solely by this. God has used our convention to be one of the largest missional organizations the world has ever known. I have great confidence that the Lord will preserve this institution for His purposes, but even if He chooses not to, we can rest that His Church will remain. It is a distinct honor and privilege to be your pastor and with my efforts, I hope to represent you well to the SBC.
Because He Bled,
Dr. M. Nick Bates